Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Not evily. Not at the moment anyway. But as I'm working on rewriting my sequel, I'm reminded of my favorite chapter of Sol Stein's, On Writing that I read a few years ago.

If you haven't read this wonderfully informative and humorous book yet, get yourself a copy. You'll be glad you did. Thanks to Ray Rhamey at Flogging the Quill for recommending it.

The chapter I found most enlightening discusses 'The Crucible'. As in: An environment, emotional or physical that bonds two people. This could include situations such as being trapped on a lifeboat, being in the army, a family, marriage, business partners, etc. Essentially what this boils down to is the thing that keeps your character(s) locked into the situation where they must seek resolution from the main conflict.

The (biggest) problem I had with my first novel was that the plot was weak. There was a good guy and a bad guy, but there was so much going on that there was no concrete direction. Enter the crucible! Ah ha! Having that solid 'this is the crucible' statement really helped pinpoint the main plot and helped me shave off countless subplots that weren't as important as I'd originally thought they were -- even though some of them were my favorite scenes.

Focusing on the crucible can also help up the tension level, especially in what can often becomes the barren wasteland known as the 'middle of the novel'.

Now I keep this lesson in mind during all my first drafts. It's really helped cut down on frivolous subplots and extraneous characters. Which is good, because looking down at the masses under my desk, this is a lesson I wish I had learned a lot sooner.


  1. Oooh, I shall have to get me a copy of this book! I could use help with the Crucible concept. Thanks so much!

  2. Oh I LOVE those types of storylines! Awesome. I'll have to get this book.

  3. The only thing I worry about in this case is eating through the main plot too quickly.

  4. You wouldn't eat through the plot, just focus on it. For instance, as an example in the book, Stein points out: In the Old Man in the Sea, the man and the hooked fish are the crucible, neither will give up on the other.

    In the case of my novel, it is a relationship between the two MCs that, though the relationship changes throughout, it remains a constant that keeps the two characters together and facing the main conflict. There are still subplots, but they deal with adding tension within the crucible rather than me just playing with my characters as they wander hilly nilly, only occassionally touching on the main plot. ;)


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